MARXIST THEORY; A brief Introduction.
On approaching Marxism: a preliminary note.
Marx can be thought of as having offered two sets of ideas, the first of which we can accept if we wish to, without accepting the second.
1. Marx gave us a theory of society, i.e , an explanation of how society works, of how and why history has unfolded, and especially an account of the nature of capitalism. These are of great value for the task of describing what is going on in the world and for understanding the problems and directions of our society today.
2. But Marx also regarded capitalism as extremely unsatisfactory and he was very concerned with getting rid of it, via violent revolution and the establishment of a communist society. Marxism is therefore also about political goals and action.
Obviously very few people in western society today accept this second set of ideas; most seem to think capitalism is desirable, most do not want to see it destroyed and most do not like the idea of revolution or communism.
The following notes are intended to show the value of the first of these sets of ideas. One can accept Marx's concepts as being very useful for the purpose of understanding our society without accepting his condemnation of capitalism, his political values or his recommendations for political action. In other words, if you do not agree with Marxist social ideals and implications for action, don't let this interfere with your evaluation of Marxist theory about how our society works.
The economic sub-structure
Marx argued that the economic situation, the form of the productive system, is the most important determinant of all other aspects of the society, such as its social institutions and ideas, such as the system of law, of morality and education. These are elements within the "superstructure" of society.
Hence Marx is said to be a "materialist". Marx rebelled against Hegel's philosophy in which ideas were...